Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Ethnographic Research on the Question of Diaspora Among Ukraine's Displaced Crimean Populations
This project is aimed at developing an understanding of identity formation among internally displaced peoples from Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula following Russia's annexation of the region in 2014. Since the annexation, thousands of Crimeans critical of the region's new Russian authorities - particularly ethnic Ukrainians and indigenous Crimean Tatars - have voluntarily resettled in mainland Ukraine. As these groups lay down new roots, many have begun referring to themselves as a "diaspora." Their use of this term is striking, as a diaspora typically implies migration across international borders and a common ethnic identity, while displaced Crimeans are ethnically diverse and remain within their country of citizenship. With the question of diaspora in mind, this project examines how displaced Crimeans in mainland Ukraine are renegotiating ethnic, national, and regional identities in the face of new geopolitical realities. The knowledge generated from this research project will make a valuable contribution to understandings of the contemporary conflict between Ukraine and Russia, with important implications for policymakers and social scientists. This research project will rely on ethnographic field methods - including interviews and participant observations - to directly engage with and give voice to communities of displaced Crimeans in mainland Ukraine. Using the concept of diaspora to frame experiences of identity (re)construction among displaced Crimeans serves to problematize the prevailing theoretical assumption that migrant populations are not diasporic without a common ethnic identity and the experience of displacement from one nation-state to another. This view excludes groups that migrate within the borders of a nation-state, despite the fact that differences of race, ethnicity, language, and culture may vary as much among populations within nation-states as they do between them. This project contributes significantly to a more critical understanding of diasporas that overcomes the "territorial trap," or the over-reliance upon spatialities of the nation-state to frame, interrogate, or explain social phenomena. This project will have important implications for the study of diasporas and socio-spatial identities more generally across the social science, with particularly salient applications for the study of identity in Ukraine and throughout the post-Soviet space.